What is Your Chinese Zodiac?
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Background and Concept
The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars will print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.
Sheng xiao ㄕㄥ ㄒㄧㄠˋ 生肖
one of the twelve animals symbolizing the Twelve Branches used to designate years (according to lunar calendar)
Nong li ㄋㄨㄥˊ ㄌㄧˋ 农历
The Chinese lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2637 B.C. when the first cycle of the zodiac was introduced. One complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five simple cycles of 12 years each.
During the complete 60-year cycle each of the animal signs (sometimes also referred to as the twelve Earth branches) is combined with the five main elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The element of your lunar sign will exercise their influence on your life.
According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish. All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.